Emeka Okafor went to the free-throw line with a chance to give the city of Charlotte some much-needed closure. The rookie pushed aside his nerves and calmly made two free throws...
CHARLOTTE, N.C. Emeka Okafor went to the free-throw line with a chance to give the city of Charlotte some much-needed closure.
The rookie pushed aside his nerves and calmly made two free throws with 5 seconds left in overtime to give Charlotte’s new NBA team a win over its old franchise a 94-93 Bobcats victory over the New Orleans Hornets last night.
“Any win is important for us, but this one, you could just sense the fans wanted it,” Okafor said. “They wanted us to beat the Hornets and we sensed it meant a lot to the city. So I was a little nervous, but I just went up there and made them.”
It was the first meeting between the Hornets who called Charlotte home for 14 seasons and the expansion Bobcats, the team that replaced them after they fled to New Orleans at the end of the 2001-02 season following a nasty falling out with the city.
The game between two pretty bad teams wasn’t very good until the end. After 23 lead changes, Jason Hart put Charlotte on top with an 18-footer that made it 92-90 with 23 seconds to go in overtime.
Then Junior Harrington, who had a career-high 22 points, made a three-pointer to put New Orleans up 93-92 with 7 seconds left.
The Hornets had one foul to give, and used it coming out of the timeout. But Okafor beat P.J. Brown under the basket and referee Bennie Adams called Brown for a foul, sending Okafor to the line for the winning free throws.
“I thought I knocked the ball away, and I thought it was a bad call,” Brown said. “I was very surprised and shocked he called a foul. You don’t see too many games end like that, just given to the other team.”
Hornets coach Byron Scott was equally upset with the call that gave New Orleans its 11th straight loss.
“That was the worst call I’ve seen in about 12 years, period,” Scott said. “If (Okafor) makes a play and scores, then that’s one thing. You don’t bail them out, and that’s what (Adams) did, he bailed them out.”
Harrington missed a shot at the buzzer as New Orleans dropped to an NBA-worst 1-19 this season. The Bobcats, who are supposed to be worse as the expansion team, are an enviable 5-14.
Okafor finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, Gerald Wallace had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Keith Bogans had 11 points. Brevin Knight had 11 assists before missing all of overtime with a bruised forearm.
David Wesley, extremely popular during his days in Charlotte, led the Hornets with 23 points. Brown had 17 points and 11 rebounds, George Lynch had 13 points and Matt Freije added 10.
The Bobcats celebrated the meeting of the two teams with a “Conversion Night” that allowed fans to trade in any Hornets gear for an orange Bobcats cap. It didn’t deter a smattering of fans to keep their memorabilia, and even wear old jerseys during the game.
The old Hornets gear is rarely seen anymore in Charlotte, where the wounds are still raw from the deterioration of the franchise. Once revered fans set an NBA record with 364 straight sellouts from 1989-97 the city turned on the Hornets in the final two years over hatred of owner George Shinn.
Hornets guard Alex Garcia will miss the rest of the season because of a torn knee ligament.
He twisted his left knee Sunday against Washington and left the game in the third quarter.
Garcia averaged 5.5 points and 2.3 assists in 18.3 minutes through eight games.
Memphis Grizzlies reserve guard Antonio Burks will be sidelined at least six weeks with a broken right pinkie finger.
Burks broke the finger Monday night in a 92-86 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Burks was averaging 4.6 points and 2.4 assists in 13 minutes a game.